Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) on Sunday tried to dismiss a report from a nonpartisan government watchdog group that concluded the Trump administration violated the law when it withheld authorized aid to Ukraine for political purposes.
The Government Accountability Office released a report on Thursday that said the Trump administration had misused the Office of Management and Budget to impound over $240 million in aid Congress had allocated for Ukraine. An impeachment investigation found President Donald Trump withheld the aid in an attempt to coerce Ukrainian officials into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden, a front-runner in the Democratic presidential primary.
On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Cornyn chose his words carefully as he defended Trump’s conduct in the wake of the GAO report.
“It’s certainly not a crime, and [it’s] something no one had ever dreamed in the past would have risen to the level of impeachment,” Cornyn said.
The GAO report does not allege that the Trump administration’s misconduct rose to the criminal level, although it does say the administration broke the law.
“Faithful execution of the law does not permit the President to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law,” the report reads, adding that the Impoundment Control Act does not allow the OMB to withhold funds for policy reasons.
The Constitution says U.S. officials can be impeached for “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” — the last of which is a term many legal scholars have interpreted to include both literal crimes and severe violations of public trust.
Two articles of impeachment filed in the House charge Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Investigators found Trump’s efforts to solicit foreign interference in the 2020 election amounted to “high crimes and misdemeanors.”
Cornyn on Sunday suggested he did not agree with that classification, although he did not provide details to support his argument.
“He’s been charged with abuse of power, which is not treason, which is not bribery, which is not a high crime and misdemeanor,” he said.